Three Suffolk Police officers who were assaulted by a male with over 160 previous convictions – including prior convictions for assaulting emergency workers – have been let down by the judiciary after their attacker walked free from court.
The officers had their case thrown out of court due to a shortage of available barristers. The judge refused to adjourn the case and directed that ‘not guilty’ verdicts should be recorded.
A spokesperson for the Police Federation of England & Wales said:
‘Whilst we understand the current backlog and pressures on the system are having an effect on criminal justice, this cannot be allowed to continue. Victims are being let down, losing hope and left feeling that their experience is irrelevant.
‘The suspect in question has 161 previous convictions including offences of assaults on police officers. We now have a suspect who has effectively been let off with no punishment for his actions. How can police officers be expected to uphold law and order when we are not supported to do so by the CPS?
‘This is just one example of where our police officers are being let down by the criminal justice system.
‘Not only are our officers feeling disrespected and dejected, but this is an enormous waste of resources following the countless hours it will have taken to prepare the case file just for it to be thrown out.
‘The last minute nature of the decision meant the force were left short in their numbers, given that the three officers, plus two additional officers who were witnesses, had been warned for court. The domino impact of this decision is plain to see.
‘This is simply unacceptable.
‘Our officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the public and all too often are assaulted in the process. What message does this send to them – that they are not valued or respected? What message does it send to those intent on harming officers, or indeed others – that there will be no consequences due to a backlogged system and lack of barristers?
‘The criminal justice system has failed our members. We need reassurance that this will not happen again in cases involving our colleagues, or indeed in any case. The system needs fixing, immediately.’
Darren Harris, chair of Suffolk Police Federation which represents the three officers involved in the incident, has also condemned the outcome of the case.
“In the past, the Federation has criticised courts for handing out seemingly lenient sentences when police officers have been assaulted and abused, saying that offenders had escaped with little more than a slap on the wrist,” says Darren.
“But, in this case it seems that this individual didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. It is beyond belief that they have been able to walk away completely scot-free for this despicable abuse of police officers just going about their duties.
“Not only does this mean that they have completely escaped justice, but it also sends out completely the wrong message to others. Where is the deterrent when someone can be accused of this type of offence and then simply see the case dropped?
“Police officers put their lives on the line to serve and protect the public and the very least that they should expect in return is a criminal justice system that punishes those who fail to respect their unique position in society.
“An attack on a police officer is an attack on society itself and this is why our successful Protect the Protectors campaign resulted in the Government giving courts the ability to hand out far tougher sentences for those who assault the police or other members of the emergency services.
“However, we now need the courts to use the stronger sentencing powers they have. While we appreciate that the courts are struggling due to a shortage of barristers, this cannot be allowed to prevent justice being done – for our members, for the police service and for the wider public.”
Darren’s views have been echoed by the three officers involved in the incident.
One said: “I am very disappointed and feel let down by the system. We are here to protect victims and when we are victims ourselves doing our duty the offender is allowed to walk away with no consequences.”
Another added: “I am disappointed with the decision and frustrated we get assaulted in the line of duty and the court doesn’t seem to care.”
The third officer said: “I am angry. What is the point of recording a crime of assault if it won’t go anywhere? All the work that goes into case feels like it’s not worth it.”